Huge Tonga volcanic eruption caused ‘significant damage’
This satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT), shows an undersea volcano eruption (R) at the Pacific nation of Tonga.
A massive volcanic eruption in Tonga that triggered tsunami waves around the Pacific caused “significant damage” to the island nation’s capital and smothered it in dust, but the full extent was not apparent with communications still cut off on Jan. 16.
The eruption on Jan. 15 was so powerful it was recorded around the world, triggering a tsunami that flooded Pacific coastlines from Japan to the United States.
The capital Nuku’alofa suffered “significant” damage, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, adding there had been no reports of injury or death but a full assessment was not yet possible with communication lines down.
“The tsunami has had a significant impact on the foreshore on the northern side of Nuku’alofa with boats and large boulders washed ashore,” Ardern said after contact with the New Zealand embassy in Tonga.
“Nuku’alofa is covered in a thick film of volcanic dust but otherwise conditions are calm and stable.”
Tonga was in need of water supplies, she said: “The ash cloud has caused contamination.”
There has been no word on damage in the outer islands and New Zealand will send an air force reconnaissance aircraft “as soon as atmospheric conditions allow”, the country’s Defense Force tweeted.
Tonga has also accepted Canberra’s offer to send a surveillance flight, Australia’s foreign office said, adding it is also immediately prepared to supply “critical humanitarian supplies.”
A 1.2-metre wave swept ashore in the Tongan capital with residents reporting they had fled to higher ground, leaving behind flooded houses, some with structural damage, as small stones and ash fell from the sky.
Dramatic satellite images showed the long, rumbling eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano spew smoke and ash in the air, with a thunderous roar heard 10,000 kilometers away in Alaska.
The eruption triggered tsunamis across the Pacific with waves of 1.74 meters measured in Chanaral, Chile, more than 10,000 kilometers away, and smaller waves seen along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Mexico.
In California, the city of Santa Cruz was hit by flooding due to a tidal surge generated by the tsunami, videos retweeted by the U.S. National Weather Service showed.